Debate: Youth vs experience

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With attention turning to the driver market for 2008, several of F1’s seasoned campaigners have already bagged contract extensions.

Rubens Barrichello will stay with Honda – and should surpass Riccardo Patrese’s record number of career starts (256) early next year).

David Coulthard is set for a fourth year at Red Bull – when many had written his career off after he left McLaren in 2004 – and Giancarlo Fisichella is expected to stay at Renault.

But should these old hands make way for emerging talents like Sebastian Vettel?

There’s plenty of talent bubbling under the F1 surface. But with only 22 seats to go around – and some teams forced to opt for wallet size over ability – some of the top young drivers aren’t getting a shot.

Like last year’s F3 Euroseries champion Paul di Resta. He beat Vettel to the title, but is now chugging around in the DTM in a two year-old Mercedes C Class.

Like Timo Glock, the impressive German who drove for Jordan three years ago but has had to return to GP2 while waiting for another crack at F1.

And like Robert Doornbos and Neel Jani, who have turned to the Champ Car World Series because F1 is full up.

Should some of F1’s drivers whose best days are behind them, make way for the young talent?


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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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11 comments on “Debate: Youth vs experience”

  1. Nathan Jones
    30th July 2007, 8:14

    well, i dont know how guys like Jarno Trulli and Fisi r still in f1! more so trulli, he seriously makes me wonder

  2. Glock or Jani or Vettel did not make it yet, but in past 2 years Kubica, Rosberg, Kovalainen, Sutil Hamilton did … We can’t expect the whole F1 grid to retire and make a way for new blood. I think also the young guns enjoy the chance to race with and learn from the guys like Coulthard, Barrichello (or M.Schumacher last year) …

  3. I agree with Milos, there will always be the up-and-coming guys – especially when a rookie like Hamilton does so well, then suddenly every team should be full of these young inexperienced drivers but it’s also best if these people get the chance to drive alongside older guys to learn from them.

    The number one priority for a team should always be talent and skill, not age – but the smaller teams haven’t always had that luxury and instead have had to put money first which at the end of the day hasn’t really helped them close the gap performance-wise to the big guns at the front.

    Having said that, there are some teams who seem to be throwing good money after bad to retain drivers which from the outside don’t really seem worth keeping!

  4. There are always more talented up-and-comers than there are spaces. In the days when F1 teams proliferated, many of them were dependent on sponsor funding (leaving talented paupers in the cold). Nowadays, the simple problem is that there aren’t enough teams to take on all the talents, even if they were all fully-funded.

    That said, the standard of driver is improving – even Adrian Sutil would do well in a better team, and he’s paying huge amounts for his seat – and there is also the problem of longevity. Since 2003, there have been 24 rookies – of which only nine are on the grid now. Of those nine, three began this season and another two the year before. In other words, the rookies that are getting in aren’t lasting.

    It’s got to the point where vast amounts of experience are necessary if a driver expects to remain competitive across a span of several years. Youth may be faster in its debut season, but the young drivers tend to fare badly in their second and third years. This is why teams are so keen to keep on the more experienced drivers, even when they expect their rookies to be beating them by the end of the season. They’re needed to keep team development on an even keel and keep the rookie’s performance in perspective.

  5. Well said, alianora! But key point here: many rookies don’t last because they’re not necessarily the best ones. They tend to be the richest ones. And they’re not necessarily one and the same.

    Nonetheless, I prefer youth over experience. As Eddie Jordan said, “Why go for someone who you know isn’t good enough?” But I do understand those who pick experience, because these guys are more knowledgeable technically, and quite simply, they’re more mature.

  6. Robert McKay
    30th July 2007, 12:16

    Being pedantic: isn’t DC set for a 4th year with Red Bull? This is his third already, he started racing for them in 2005.

  7. Yep, you are right Robert – you win the Deliberate Mistake Prize ;)

  8. So called because there is no prize. Have fixed it.

  9. Nice quote Jouneyer, qoute from Eddie Jordan:
    As Eddie Jordan said, “Why go for someone who you know isn’t good enough?” But I ask “Why go for someone you DON’T KNOW is any good?
    There’s too many kids and most opinions are right on…..the rich ones get to race, the good ones get to watch.
    The bottom line it takes 3 to 5 years to ‘mature’ a driver with sufficient experience and many good ones aren’t able to get through the 5 years apprenticeship.

  10. Number 38, Eddie also answered that question: Because there’s a chance he might be VERY good, like say, Michael Schumacher-good. :) And for the smaller teams, that’s the chance only they will ever have the balls to take. Because the manufacturers would never imagine doing anything like that.

    As for the 3-5 year apprenticeship, that’s true, not everyone is a Schumacher or Senna who are regularly quick right off the bat. Alonso took a few years to get there (3-4 years), Hakkinen even longer (6-7 years). Even Hamilton got tons of simulator time (for a year or so) to be where he is now. Some of the teams just aren’t patient enough for that. For example, look at Justin Wilson and Robert Doornbos. They bumped them out of F1 without a thought. But look at them now at Champ Cars, both are right at the front. Could they have been good enough for F1 had they been given a better opportunity? I doubt we’ll ever know.

  11. I have never been satisfied that I saw Justin Wilson’s full ability, squashed as it was in uncompetitive machinery. But that’s another story. Nowadays the only true pay drivers are the Spyker ones. Everyone else is one of the top two talents that team’s driver scheme has produced. Independent drivers don’t stand much of a chance these days – ask Timo Glock. It is only when an independent driver is better than a team-scheme-developed driver, or an unexpected change in form occurs, that the “better drivers were available” has been used in the last 18 months.

    The other point is that Hamilton is in a team that would never have considered using a full-time rookie a few years back. That was because there were several independent teams back then, at which a young driver could earn their spurs before McLaren took them on (Lotus for Mika Hakkinen, Williams for David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya, and Sauber for Kimi Raikkonen). Even successful independent teams generally take more risks than manufacturers at the same success level.

    Of course, most of the independents are gone now, and Williams have taken Wurz from McLaren, so McLaren is suddenly required to take more risks. Hence why Lewis Hamilton started his career at McLaren – and why McLaren is seeing the truth of the EJ quote journeyer gave in the previous post!

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